1. a person who inherits or has a right of inheritance in the property of another following the latter’s death.
  2. Law.
    1. (in common law) a person who inherits all the property of a deceased person, as by descent, relationship, will, or legal process.
    2. Civil Law.a person who legally succeeds to the place of a deceased person and assumes the rights and obligations of the deceased, as the liabilities for debts or the possessory rights to property.
  3. a person who inherits or is entitled to inherit the rank, title, position, etc., of another.
  4. a person or group considered as inheriting the tradition, talent, etc., of a predecessor.

verb (used with object)

  1. Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S. to inherit; succeed to.


  1. civil law the person legally succeeding to all property of a deceased person, irrespective of whether such person died testate or intestate, and upon whom devolves as well as the rights the duties and liabilities attached to the estate
  2. any person or thing that carries on some tradition, circumstance, etc, from a forerunner
  3. an archaic word for offspring

c.1400, from heir + -less.


c.1300, from Anglo-French heir, Old French oir “heir, successor,” from Latin heredem (nominative heres) “heir, heiress” (see heredity). Heir apparent (late 14c.) has the French order of noun-adjective, though it was not originally so written in English. It is the heir of one still alive whose right is clear. After death the heir apparent becomes the heir-at-law.

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